The Poke Cake of Glory

Sunday, November 18, 2012
I've always been a proponent of homemade food. I deeply believe that homemade food tastes better than anything pre-made or pre-mixed that you can buy. My pantry shelves are free of cake and brownie mixes. There's no tube of cookie dough in the fridge. And heaven's forbid that a can of frosting cross over the cabin threshold. That stuff'll kill you.

But we all have our weaknesses. There's almost always a can of cherry pie filling in my pantry, in case I have to whip up one of my nearly-famous cherry cranberry pies. And I try to have some "emergency" Jell-O on hand because honestly, when I have the stomach flu, all I want is a bowl of Jell-O and a glass of flat ginger ale. (Andy does not get this, but that's what I was given during my annual bout of stomach flu as a child.)

And Poke Cake. I have a weakness for poke cakes.  

You know the recipe, right? You take a white cake mix, bake it up in two layer pans, then poke the cake all over with forks and pour a Jell-O mixture over the cake. Once the Jell-O's set, you slap the cake together with a heavy layer of Cool-Whip. It's corporate recipe writing at its finest. In fact, besides the Rice Krispy Bar, I'm not sure any other corporate recipe has taken such a hold on America's kitchens.

My brother loved poke cake so much that for many years during his adolescence, he requested it for his birthday. Not just any poke cake (which you can make with any combination of Jell-O flavors, like orange and lemon or berry blue and raspberry, or . . ..), but the Christmas poke cake, where one layer is lime flavored and the other is raspberry flavored. His birthday is in July. 

I don't know why, but my mother and I were talking about the merits of poke cake the other day. (I would argue that the pure trashiness of poke cake is one of its virtues.) "What's poke cake?" the ever curious Andy asked. My mother and I stared at each other in horror. I wasn't sure that you could call yourself a Midwesterner if you'd never consumed a slice or two poke cake.

So Andy requested a poke cake for his birthday last week. Strawberry, if you please.

"Oh, but I want a homemade cake," he said.

Well, okay. 

While I was somewhat suspicious that a homemade cake would be sacrilege when it came to poke cake, I decided to try out this funfetti cake recipe which I pinned a while back. Except I left out the funfetti - what with Jell-O and Cool-Whip being key ingredients, I figured that the last thing the cake need was sprinkles. (Feel free to argue this point, but I actually don't like sprinkles much. Sure they're adorable, but they taste terrible and are texturally unpleasing on top of . . . brownies, cupcakes, ice cream, whipped cream, anything.)

My mother also suggested I try frosting it with actual whipped cream, but I poo-pooed that as "too rich." (And trust me, I never poo-poo whipped cream.)

Here's the final result in all of its (mostly) artificial glory:

What I learned:

I may not actually like strawberry jello that much.

I do however like this recipe for homemade cake quite a bit. I will make it again, complete with the 3/4 cup of multi-colored sprinkles.

When you pair strawberry jello with a lemony flavored cake, you get a cake that kind of tastes like strawberry lemonade and that is by no means a bad thing.

A homemade cake does not compromise the integrity of a poke cake, but it will dry out faster than a box mix cake. 

Cool-Whip may disgust me as a substance (Whipped vegetable oil! Whipped corn syrup!) but it is a tasty, tasty, easy-peasy frosting.

Have you ever had poke cake?



  1. I do love me some poke cake. Have you had 'dump cake' before? I had that not too long ago, my friends family all makes this. LOL

  2. here is one, but there are lots of versions!

  3. Your brother was right on time. Christmas in July :-) Never heard of Poke Cake - guess this foreigner might be forgiven. certainly never will pass as a Midwest'ner
    My childhood home made remedy for all kind of sicknesses: chocolate pudding. I mean genuine one. By day and night. Hand raspel chocolate, melted in water bath, thickened by patience and lots of slow wisk, after adding some milk, eggs and lots of love for your child. Latter is needed even more if requested in the middle of the night ;-)

  4. I don't think so, but I've been to enough MN funerals and subsequent church basement meals that I must have. In my family, Jello was the big thing. Not in my immediate family--we didn't eat wonderbread or processed cheese or even have Jello in the house. But family holidays count "salad" as snickers chunks slathered in cool whip, so you can tell there's plenty of jello there. In fact, my grandpa once complained, "does a guy have to die to get some jello around here?" because my grandma made it exclusively for funerals.
    Personally, we are pie people.


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